A bill to eliminate the governor’s power to close schools is progressing in the Senate.

The Senate E-12 committee passed SF 2 (Carla Nelson, GOP-Rochester) to the Senate floor, where it has received second reading. The bill will likely be debated by the full Senate this week.

The bill eliminates the Governor’s authority to use peacetime emergency restrictions to close or alter school schedules or change the “typical presence of students in school buildings.”

MSBA and MASA formally testified in opposition to the bill. Other school district organizations including MREA support the statewide organizations in their opposition to the bill.

“MREA understands frustrations of school leaders and knows all too well what they’ve been grappling with in terms of guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education and Governor executive orders during the pandemic,” MREA Executive Director Bob Indihar said. “Throughout the past year, we have been advocating for the state to not take a ‘one-size-fits-all approach for the safe reopening of schools, as well as challenging MDE on prep time mandates and distancing guidelines that make no sense for rural school settings. We all long for the day when we return to the normal order of business and life.”

Current law allows the state’s duly elected state Senators and Representatives to respond to concerns and terminate Gubernatorial peacetime emergency powers if a majority of them agree with this viewpoint. Minnesota’s House and Senate are divided and haven’t taken such actions to date.

“We should limit the capacity of future governors, carte blanche, to meet the crisis of their time head on,” Indihar said.